John Boehner is gone, or as good as gone. November will find him back in Ohio, no longer Speaker of the House and no longer a congressman. He grinned when he resigned. He sang a bit of that Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Da song – “My, Oh My, What a Wonderful Day!” He was free. It had been almost five years of trying to reconcile the conservative wing of his caucus, who wanted to get conservative things done, with the Tea Party crowd, that didn’t want to get anything done, on principle, because government is bad – and you don’t hand victories to Barack Obama, even if they are reasonably conservative victories. It was an impossible job. Let someone else try it.
There was glee on the far edges of the right. No Tea Party patriot in the House would now have to endure John Boehner, or anyone else, ever again cutting deals with Nancy Pelosi or Obama to keep the government running, to keep the lights on, when there are higher principles at stake – like defunding Planned Parenthood.
That took care of the House. These same folks were saying that Mitch McConnell was next. That would take care of the Senate. That would be the future, but of course that wasn’t the present:
The Senate plans to pass a spending bill Wednesday morning to keep the U.S. government running, leaving hours to spare for the House to vote before a potential shutdown.
“I’m optimistic it will pass” in the House, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters Tuesday. He also said that he, House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama plan to start discussions soon on setting government spending limits for the next two fiscal years.
They were poking the Tea Party folks in the eye. Existing government funding would expire at the end of the day Wednesday, and McConnell and Boehner and Obama would work out a way to keep the lights on, at least through December, and they’d raise the debt limit while they were at it. The nation would be able to pay its bills for the next two years. We wouldn’t default on all treasury bonds and throw the world’s financial system into chaos. John Boehner hadn’t left yet.
Republican congressman Peter King of New York did concede that there could be a government shutdown in December. He said that the next speaker will have to deal with the same no-nothing-ever folks:
“These guys have set impossible standards” that can’t be met as long as the president is a Democrat who can veto their proposals, King told reporters in the Capitol. “The enemy is not Boehner… it’s the Constitution.”
There are the rules. You can’t bend them, and they can be used against you:
Ted Cruz can’t even get a protest vote in the Senate anymore. On Monday night, Cruz’s colleagues ignored his attempt to disrupt Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to fund the government without attacking Planned Parenthood. In an unusual rebuke, even fellow Republicans denied him a “sufficient second” that would have allowed him a roll call vote.
Then, his Republican colleagues loudly bellowed “no” when Cruz sought a voice vote, a second repudiation that showed how little support Cruz has: Just one other GOP senator – Utah’s Mike Lee – joined with Cruz as he was overruled by McConnell and his deputies. Ted Cruz can’t even get a protest vote in the Senate anymore.
Cruz was done in by the rules:
Any time the Senate is considering a question – whether that question is a bill, amendment, motion, conference report, or something else – a Senator who has the floor can “ask for the yeas and nays” or a roll call vote on that question. This is the constitutional right of any Senator, and no other lawmaker can object to the request. If such a request is supported by 10 other Senators (for a total of 11) this usually requires the Senate to conduct a roll call vote (also called a vote by “the yeas and nays”) to decide the question it is considering. The Senate can agree to order a roll call vote on a question at any time when it is debating that question.
And this isn’t arbitrary:
The authority for Senators to obtain roll call votes derives from Article I, Section 5, clause 3 of the Constitution, which states that “the yeas and nays of the members of either house on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the Journal.” The Constitution also provides that “a majority of each [house] shall constitute a quorum to do business.” Therefore, “one fifth of those present” to order the yeas and nays must be one-fifth of at least 51 Senators (or at least 11 Senators), which is the minimal majority required to satisfy the constitutional quorum requirement. A smaller number of Senators cannot order a roll call vote, even by unanimous consent, because the Senate may not set aside any constitutional requirement governing its proceedings.
So there’s this:
When a Senator asks for the yeas and nays, the presiding officer responds by asking, “Is there a sufficient second?” Senators who support the request for a roll call vote then raise their hands to be counted. The support of 11 Senators usually constitutes a sufficient second, because the Senate presumes that a minimal quorum is present.
That’s clear enough, but Cruz wasn’t happy:
It was the second time that Cruz had been denied a procedural courtesy that’s routinely granted to senators in both parties. The first came after he called McConnell a liar this summer.
Cruz was incredulous on Monday, calling it an “unprecedented procedural trick.”
“What does denying a second mean? Denying a recorded vote! Why is that important?” Cruz said.
It’s important because it’s a constitutional requirement. Only one person would second your motion. You needed eleven. Sit down and shut up.
Sure, but that’s just not him:
Cruz said he would again try to force a vote on Tuesday when the Senate votes to pass a spending bill that does not defund Planned Parenthood. In an unusual request meant to draw attention to his ongoing battle with Republican leadership, the Texas senator implored voters to tune in and see where their senators stand on Tuesday when he again requests a “sufficient second.”
“One of the ways you avoid accountability is you somehow are somewhere else doing something really, really important instead of actually showing up to the battle,” Cruz said, accusing Republicans of joining with Democrats to “roll over any parliamentary trick you might use.”
Cruz’s speech was filled with familiar accusations that Republican leaders were capitulating, even as he praised Democrats for being more resolute than the GOP. But Cruz also personally lambasted McConnell and his deputies for denying a roll call vote that would have failed anyway, arguing that results are rigged in the Senate and that conservatives have no influence anymore.
That’s called whining, and this Politico account ends with this assessment:
In reality, it’s not Senate procedure that stymied Cruz on Monday night. Republicans have grown tired of Cruz pushing proposals that he knows McConnell and other Republicans will never back, like defunding Planned Parenthood in a spending bill, then criticizing McConnell for not taking up the plan even as he uses the fight to bolster his presidential campaign as Washington’s consummate outsider.
Cruz’s internal criticism of his leadership is what animates his presidential campaign, but his colleagues appear to be no longer listening. Cruz was allowed only to speak for an hour on Monday night under Senate rules, and no one was itching to grant him an exception.
And that allowed him to play martyr:
“The Democrats are objecting to my speaking further. And both the Democrats and Republican leadership are objecting to the American people speaking further. I yield the floor,” Cruz said quietly.
Weep for him, or don’t, but the speech was amazing in its way. At Breitbart, Katie McHugh covers the key points:
The Democrats are “relentless” in pursuing their principles, Cruz said, which include ever-increasing government spending and unlimited abortion rights. They’re “willing to crawl over broken glass with a knife between their teeth to fight for their principles,” Cruz said.
Republican leadership “reflexively surrenders,” Cruz said. “President Obama simply has to utter the word shutdown and Republican leadership runs for the hills.”
Cruz explained three types of votes take place in the Senate: “show votes,” a limp-wristed attempt to placate voters by staging a pre-ordained surrender to Democrats; votes that simply grow government; “must-pass” votes that include continuing resolutions, appropriations bills, and debt ceiling raises.
The Texas senator compared GOP leadership to an NFL coach that declares “we forfeit” at every single coin toss – the “clean” continuing resolution rubberstamps Obama’s hard-left agenda.
“It funds 100 percent of Obama’s agenda, executive amnesty, Obamacare, the Iran nuclear deal. It is essentially a blank check to Barack Obama,” Cruz said.
“How is it that Speaker Boehner can promise there would never be a shutdown? Because I believe Speaker Boehner has cut a deal with Rep. Nancy Pelosi,” Cruz said. He believes Boehner plans to cling to his Speakership for another month in order to ram through a spending deal which will continue to fund industrial baby body parts seller Planned Parenthood, thereby avoiding a government shutdown.
He was on fire, or unhinged, depending in your politics, but Burgess Everett explains what was really going on here:
Ted Cruz called out Mitch McConnell seven times by name on Monday night. Afterward, the Senate majority leader barely uttered a word about his chief Republican adversary.
Asked about Cruz’s diatribe on the Senate floor, during which the Texas Republican suggested McConnell is a puppet for Democratic leaders and a foe of conservatives, McConnell couldn’t conceal his smile on Tuesday.
“I have tried very hard to stay out of the presidential race, and I think that’s probably a good rule for me,” he said with a chuckle.
McConnell may not like to talk about Cruz, but he and his leadership lieutenants have quietly and methodically worked to isolate the conservative senator and minimize his effect on the critical fall spending debate.
This was a team effort:
“We had to be prepared,” said John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican. “He’s running for national office. He’s got a different endgame than we do. There are things we have to do here. We’ve got to fund the government every year.” …
The message is clear: McConnell isn’t going anywhere, and everyone in the Senate knows it. Even Cruz won’t say he should resign. …
“Avoiding disruption was the goal, and so that’s why that happened,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Cruz’s home state colleague and the No. 2 GOP leader. “It’s easy to make Washington and the establishment and leadership a punching bag. I don’t think there’s much mystery” behind Cruz’s motives.
Perhaps so, but there were warning signs:
In early dust-ups this year, Cruz played procedural hardball but stopped short of the personal insults he used later that turned his colleagues against him. The breaking point came in July, when Cruz called McConnell a liar for holding a vote on the Export-Import Bank, which many conservatives vehemently oppose.
Even then, McConnell bit his tongue, quietly urging senators not to take the floor in his defense, wary of giving Cruz a bigger platform for his GOP primary run.
“I was highly offended with the exhibition on the floor, Cruz calling McConnell a liar. If I’d have been here, I’d have him removed from the chamber,” said former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), himself a former majority leader. “He would have gotten more attention. Mitch probably handled it right.”
Lott knows something about handling political conflict, having moved as a member of the House to silence the late Speaker Tip O’Neill as he went after Newt Gingrich in 1984. But even then, the former GOP leader admitted, he’d never had to deal with anyone like Cruz.
“I had about a half a dozen more moderate senators that I have to work with. But they weren’t obstreperous, they didn’t call me a liar on the floor, they didn’t question my parenthood,” Lott said.
Now they’ve learned their lesson:
“Ted has chosen to make this really personal and chosen to call people dishonest in leadership and call them names which really goes against the decorum and also against the rules of the Senate,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a rival of Cruz’s for the GOP presidential nomination who has earned a tepid endorsement from McConnell, said on Fox News Radio. “As a consequence, he can’t get anything done legislatively. He is pretty much done for and stifled.”
Cruz declined to comment for this story when asked about the box-out by fellow senators. And perhaps there wasn’t much left to say: He’d again insulted McConnell by comparing him to Reid, boasted about Boehner’s downfall and exhausted his procedural leverage – leaving Cruz to tout his war against McConnell on the campaign trail.
That may have been the point in the first place:
“For Cruz’s presidential campaign, the stakes couldn’t be higher in terms of the upcoming congressional showdown,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He wants to be seen as a political outsider and, right now, he’s not gaining traction in the polls because he’s seen as an insider.”
That “insider” perception is not for lack of trying to convince voters of otherwise. Since his arrival in Washington nearly three years ago, Cruz has been a perennial thorn in the side of establishment Republicans, notably playing a key role in the budget impasse over Obamacare funding that prompted the 2013 government shutdown. As a presidential candidate, meanwhile, Cruz constantly describes himself as a “consistent conservative” who won’t buckle under political pressure and won’t allow Washington to operate under its current dysfunction.
But as polls have shown so far, it can be difficult to run as a Washington outsider in a field with several candidates who have literally never worked in Washington.
That would be Donald Trump and Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina – they’re soaring and Cruz is nowhere. Cruz had to do something. As an actual insider he had to piss off every insider in Washington and have each of them publicly call him in asshole. It’s a plan.
At Salon, Sean Illing says that’s not much of a plan:
The people of Texas owe America an apology. They elected Ted Cruz to the United States Senate, and now the country is forced to endure his presence throughout the interminable election season. Cruz has worked diligently (and successfully) to become the least liked human being in Congress. Judging by last night, he’s hated most by his Republican colleagues, who, once again, blocked his inane efforts to shut down the government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood.
But that’s not the real problem:
The worst thing about Cruz isn’t his obnoxiousness or his undemocratic conservatism or his dreary affectations; it’s his self-promoting nihilism. What he’s doing, and how he’s doing it, feels unprecedented. Threatening to shut down the government or undermine the country’s credit rating in defense of campaign talking point is an act of legislative terror. Cruz represents the very worst of factionalist fervor. He has no regard for the constitution or the general will or the nation’s economy. He sees an opportunity to promote his brand and it doesn’t matter what the costs are, to his party or his country.
Cruz fancies himself a political martyr, the one Republican willing to fight for truth and transparency and conservative principles. He condemns his GOP colleagues as RINO cowards and pseudo-conservatives. But there’s nothing genuinely conservative about Cruz’s brinksmanship. He has no respect for Senatorial tradition or process or majority opinion. Again, he’s a nihilist and, perhaps worse, a fraud. …
It’s not about reducing abortions or affirming conservative values. If Cruz were serious about that, he’d pursue real goals in realistic ways. Instead, he stages one stunt after another knowing it won’t accomplish anything concrete, save for his own promotion. That’s not what a serious politician does. But Cruz isn’t serious, as John Boehner happily noted: He’s a “jackass” and a “false prophet.”
Illing is not a fan. There are no fans. Simon Maloy suggests there’s only this:
He’s patiently waiting for Republican primary voters to grow weary with or abandon the Trump/Carson/Fiorina troika and hoping that they’ll be enthralled by his futile exploits in opposition to the “Washington Cartel.” At the same time, he’s setting himself up as a “more conservative” alternative to Senate colleague Marco Rubio, who quite famously collaborated with Democrats and RINO sellouts to pass the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Of course, the strategy isn’t without tremendous risks and drawbacks. He’s trying to inflate the eye-glazing monotony of Senate procedure into a life-and-death struggle for the conservative movement – but there’s only so much drama one can wring out of a failed request for a roll call vote. And publicizing your own failures very may well have the effect of encouraging people to think of you as a weak and ineffective legislator. And even if he does outflank all the other 2016 candidates from the right, he’ll have to face voters in the general election as the guy who repeatedly tried to shut the government down in the name of unflinching ideological purity.
Essentially, his pitch to voters is: “Look, I’m getting nothing done and it’s everyone else’s fault!” Outside the confines of the Tea Party right, that’s a bit of a hard sell.
Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood, testified before Congress amid a scrum of cameras and spectators. Hearings like this one are of course not about fact-finding but are created as media events, in the sense that they exist only for the purpose of being broadcast. They allow members of Congress to attempt to get on the evening news, and both parties hope what comes out of the hearing will aid their side in an ongoing controversy, in this case the question of whether the government should “defund” Planned Parenthood (and whether Republicans should shut down the government over it).
The hearing also demonstrated why Republicans are going to lose on this issue.
Let me take just one exchange. Rep. Jim Jordan, one of the most conservative members of the House, used his time shouting at Richards because she admitted at one point that she had originally “apologized for the tone and statements” in the “sting” videos that started this controversy. Apparently Jordan imagined that in making this admission, she had fallen into a trap and would now have to admit that Planned Parenthood had committed some kind of misconduct. Watching his voice get louder and louder, it seemed as though Jordan was thinking, “I’ve really got her now.” But what did he actually prove? Nothing.
Nor did any of the other Republicans. All seemed to have some very specific question they had prepared, one that was designed to produce a “gotcha” moment. But Richards didn’t have any trouble answering any of them, because the accusations that drove them aren’t all that controversial unless your starting point is that abortion is evil and so is anything in any way connected to it. That’s a position many people hold, but it isn’t a position most Americans hold, and it doesn’t actually tell you whether we should shut down the government.
That’s the problem:
Republicans are trying to make a two-stage argument here. The first is that Planned Parenthood is bad. If they can convince the public of that – a challenge in itself, particularly when so many women have personal experience with the organization – then they need to convince the public further that Planned Parenthood is so bad that keeping it from getting any Medicaid reimbursements (which make up the bulk of the organization’s federal funding) is worth shutting down the government over.
If you think Republicans will do that successfully, then you probably also thought they were going to successfully get the Affordable Care Act repealed by shutting down the government two years ago. And we saw how that worked out.
And there’s this:
Conservative lawmakers who are willing to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding may want to think twice. Two surveys released on Monday showed Americans are largely against using the funding as leverage to defund the organization.
According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, the majority of Americans – 69% – are against the tactic while 23% support the move. Even among Republicans, only 36% said they’d be in favor of a shutdown while 56% oppose it. Meanwhile, 83% of Democrats and 72% of independents said they were against a shutdown over the funding.
Similarly, a separate NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that just 35% of Americans are in favor of eliminating Planned Parenthood funding – and of that 35%, just 9% supports shutting down the government to achieve that goal. In addition, six in 10 Americans are against completely getting rid of the funding, including 40% who are “strongly” opposed.
That’s not a sufficient second. In fact, only thirty-six percent of Republicans support shutting down the government over this, and Ted Cruz. And he won’t sit down and shut up. Let’s ignore him.